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Unicef hopes female vaccinators will help deal final blow to polio this year

Unicef’s Jean Gough was full of praise for female polio vaccinators in Karachi and termed them “front-line workers” on Wednesday, hoping that their continued dedication would help eradicate the crippling disease from Pakistan this year.

Jean, Unicef’s regional director for South Asia, was accompanied by Unicef Representative in Pakistan Angela Kearney during her visit to the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio in Karachi. They also went to Baldia Town to oversee anti-polio activities there.

EOC Sindh’s security officials, including Col Shahid and Maj Amjad, and UN security officials escorted the Unicef team during their visit to Baldia Town, while senior police officers were also at hand to ensure maximum security.

In the past, polio teams were fatally assaulted in the town and other parts of Karachi, thwarting the efforts to eradicate the disease, but in the last one and a half years no significant attack has been carried out on vaccinators in the city.

The dreaded disease is on the verge of eradication in Karachi, and the authorities give its credit to the polio workers, especially female vaccinators, who put their lives at risk to immunise children in the megalopolis.

During her visit to the EOC, Jean was briefed on the workings of the centre and the headway made towards eradicating the disease from the province.

She was informed that it had been more than a year since Karachi reported a polio case and soon it would be a year since northern Sindh reported a case. Both parts of the province had persistent virus circulation less than two years ago.

Jean and Angela also met with female polio workers from across the city and had detailed discussions with them. Their exchange ranged from the route maps used in the field to how improvements in the programme transpired.

Jean said she was pleased to see so many women leading the programme. “Women are mothers, and no one can relate to children better than them.”

She termed them “the true heroes of the programme”. “We are in the last leg of polio eradication, and it is the final mile that is always the toughest. You must maintain the good work that you have done.”

The Unicef team also visited the Baldia Town Health Office where they met with polio workers, who later accompanied them to the town’s union council 7 to interact with the community and oversee anti-polio activities.

They discussed health-related issues and their solutions with caregivers and parents, as well as highlighted the importance of breastfeeding, hand washing and routine immunisation.

Angela appreciated the polio programme in Sindh and the role played by deputy commissioners and health and other government officials for making efforts to eradicate the disease.

Bhatti, Waqar. Unicef hopes female vaccinators will help deal final blow to polio this year. The News, March 30, 2017.

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